Sony Airpeak S1 Professional Drone: A Detailed Review

Last Updated: 12:06, 18 March 2024
author icon Written By: Benjamin Wilson

I bet most people associate Sony with cameras. And now that drones and cameras are becoming more associated with each other, it comes as no surprise that Sony should have a drone of their own, capable of carrying their cameras.

The Sony Airpeak S1 professional drone was announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in 2021 and released later in 2022.
Does it hold up to our expectations for filming and photography? And does it motivate a price tag of almost $9k?

Let's examine the Airpeak S1 and see if Sony, a company synonymous with sophisticated filming tools, can take their expertise to the skies.
We'll look at how it performs under real-world conditions for some proper user experience and see if the value justifies the cost.
The goal is to give you insights to determine if the Airpeak S1 can live up to your professional aspirations and investment potential.

Key Takeaways

  • The Sony Airpeak S1 drone, priced at $8,999, targets professionals and complies with NDAA guidelines.
    It is compatible with Alpha cameras and a range of lenses, something that truly allows for creative flexibility.
  • While Sony says the Airpeak S1 has a longer transmission range and battery life, in reality, the actual performance might differ from what they claim. Strong winds or the speed with a camera attached have a big impact on real-world impressions vs their claims.
  • Even though the Airpeak S1 has many advanced features like the sophisticated Vision Sensing System and safety checks, the Airpeak S1’s value is dependent on if you really need those professional-grade capabilities, that question becomes particularly important now that more and more cost-effective options become available each year.

Introducing the Sony Airpeak S1

A professional drone hovering in the air with a high-performance camera system attached, representing the Sony Airpeak S1's advanced technology and capabilities.

Billed as the smallest drone capable of carrying Sony’s line of full-frame Alpha mirrorless cameras, the Sony Airpeak S1 Professional Drone is clearly not intended for casual users. With a price point of $8999 excluding a camera or gimbal, this high-performance aircraft system is geared towards creators and professionals who demand advanced drone technology for aerial expression.

In addition, its appeal extends beyond creators and professionals. Government agencies and enterprises, particularly those adhering to NDAA compliance guidelines requiring non-Chinese manufactured drones, might find the Airpeak S1 a compelling choice.

The drone’s compatibility with a wide variety of Sony or Zeiss lenses enables greater creative flexibility. The lenses range from 14mm to 100mm with apertures as low as F1.8. The drone’s technology is meticulously engineered by Sony for peak flight performance and energy efficiency, integrating seamlessly with sensors to ensure stability and responsive flight control.

Manufacturer's Claims vs Reality

Sony is continuously refining the Airpeak S1, tackling initial limitations while broadening its aptitude for various applications. In a bid to compete more effectively in the professional drone market, Sony has suggested improvements in the Airpeak S1’s transmission range, battery life, and sensor integration.

However, these are claims made by the manufacturer and the actual performance may vary. Can we accurately determine the drone’s true capabilities? How does it perform in real-world conditions? We’ll put Sony’s claims to the test, examining the Airpeak S1’s performance in detail.

Getting the Airpeak S1 Ready for Flight

The process of preparing the Sony Airpeak S1 professional drone for flight starts with the propellers. They feature a quick release mechanism for easy attachment and removal, and the retractable landing gear snaps into place, facilitating a smooth assembly process.

Effective battery management is vital for ensuring flight readiness. The drone requires two fully charged batteries to operate, and hot-swappable batteries are necessary to minimize downtime.

Prior to take-off, the Airpeak S1 must complete a system check, including airframe, motor, and sensor inspections, to identify any issues and ensure operational safety. Balancing the camera on the S1’s gimbal also requires precision and can take up to 15 minutes, indicating a learning curve for users in terms of gimbal and camera movement.

If your new to drones, see our guide for beginners.

Examining the Airpeak S1's Design

A close-up of the sleek and functional design of the Sony Airpeak S1, highlighting its retractable landing gear and unobstructed camera rotation features.

The construction of the Sony Airpeak S1 employs lightweight and robust materials to minimize surface area, providing high rigidity needed for stable high-speed flight. The propellers, made of a carbon-based resin, are touted for their lightness, compactness, and durability, underscoring Sony’s commitment to quality and performance.

The design of the Sony Airpeak S1 includes:

  • Geometric form, a blend of curves and straight lines, resulting in a sleek appearance
  • Flip-up stands for 360-degree unobstructed camera rotation
  • Retractable landing gear, allowing the gimbal to pan freely without the gear appearing in images

These features enhance the drone’s functional capabilities.

Despite its compact size, the drone is capable of supporting a full-frame Alpha camera and incorporates cutting-edge sensing and AI technologies for stable flight and creative possibilities. This endeavor to condense professional-grade functionality into a compact form factor is one of the design highlights of the Airpeak S1.

Functionality and User Experience

The Sony RCR-VH1 remote controller features:

  • Ergonomic design
  • Ability to hold smartphones and tablets up to 7 inches
  • Four customizable buttons for a tailored control experience
  • Enhanced user interface

The Airpeak Flight Mobile App, exclusive to iOS, offers comprehensive control over the drone, gimbal, and camera. It allows users to:

  • Monitor equipment
  • View a live FPV feed
  • Execute automated flight plans
  • Check flight distance and battery usage
  • Access flight logs

However, some users have reported touchy flight controls and issues with the video feed from the camera to the app. These issues impact the in-flight user experience and the ability to adjust settings in real-time.

Despite these hiccups, the app’s dual operation mode, flexible flight modes, flight modes standard mode, mission flight mode utilizes, and flight mode switchable photo and video modes, real-time FPV, and camera settings adjustments enhance in-flight operations and creative control with additional flight modes.

Testing the Airpeak S1's Flight Performance

An aerial view of the Sony Airpeak S1 in flight, demonstrating its stable flight performance and advanced flight control system.

Evaluating the flight performance of the Sony Airpeak S1 is vital in order to achieve maximum flight performance and determine its capabilities. The drone maintains stable flight in high wind conditions up to 44.7 mph and is responsive to erratic winds, ensuring steadiness and control.

However, the actual top speed of the drone varies. While Sony claims a top speed of 55.9 mph without payload, the Airpeak S1 actually achieves around 35 mph with a camera attached and maxes out at 32 mph with the FX3 camera on board.

Exhibiting good stability in light winds and confined spaces, it operates smoothly with Alpha cameras and various lenses. However, connectivity issues were apparent in congested environments, which might concern pilots who plan to use the Airpeak S1 in urban areas.

Assessing the Airpeak S1's Sensing Capabilities

An illustration depicting the Vision Sensing System of the Sony Airpeak S1, showcasing its multi-directional sensing and obstacle detection capabilities.

The Airpeak S1 features an all-inclusive Vision Sensing System, incorporating Sony’s image sensor 5-way stereo cameras (front, back, left, right, down), a high-speed Vision Sensing Processor, and a proprietary algorithm. These, together with the drone’s inertial measurement unit (IMU), compass, barometric pressure, infrared range sensors, and global navigation satellite system, provide precise real-time location and positioning.

The Airpeak S1’s obstacle avoidance system features five directional stereo cameras integrated with an infrared range sensor that enables automatic deceleration and braking in response to environmental factors. These features are designed to prevent potential collisions and ensure safe flight. However, the sensitivity of the sensing system may result in unnecessary braking during quick maneuvers at high altitudes where no immediate obstacles are present.

Despite this, the sensor information is synthesized with the following sensors to achieve smooth and precise flight, even through wooded and obstacle-laden areas:

  • IMU
  • Compass
  • Barometric pressure sensor
  • Infrared range sensors

If you want to see more drones with good sensors, check out our list here with the top 5 picks.

Reviewing the Airpeak S1's Self-Diagnostics

A visual representation of the self-diagnostics system of the Sony Airpeak S1, ensuring flight safety through comprehensive equipment status monitoring.

The Airpeak S1 comes with a self-diagnostics system that performs an automatic full system check before motor start, confirming all systems are operational pre-flight. This feature is crucial for flight safety and the overall longevity of the drone.

In-flight self-diagnostics continue to monitor the drone’s systems, including the flight control system, alerting the pilot to any issues that may affect flight safety during a mission flight. The diagnostics system is designed to restrict take-off or prompt an emergency landing if severe issues are detected, putting safety first. While the drone operates autonomously, pilots maintain manual control, ensuring they can intervene if necessary.

Real-world testing has shown that the self-diagnostics can trigger precautionary measures, such as an automatic Return to Home, when encountering issues like battery overheating. This proves the system’s efficacy and underscores its importance for uninterrupted and safe flights.

Is the Sony Airpeak S1 Worth It?

With a high base price of $9,000 and the extra costs of essential accessories like gimbals and batteries, the Airpeak S1 constitutes a significant investment. Its value for money should be weighed against the specifications and uses of alternative drones in the market.

Several drones offer features such as obstacle avoidance, higher still image quality, and creative lens options at lower price brackets. For instance, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, Autel Robotics Evo Nano+, and DJI Avata each offer specific features at different price points, catering to different user needs.

Given that the Airpeak S1 is targeted at demanding photographers and filmmakers and is compatible with Alpha mirrorless and compact cinema cameras, its price might be justified for professionals seeking advanced features and high-quality imaging. However, for hobbyists or beginners, more affordable options might offer better value.

For more alternatives to good drones for photography, and video, read our full article here.


The Sony Airpeak S1 Professional Drone, with its advanced capabilities and high-quality imaging, certainly sets a high bar in the drone market. Its sleek design, robust self-diagnostics, and comprehensive sensing system make it a powerful tool for professional creators and filmmakers. Despite its high price point and a few minor hitches, it provides a compelling option for those seeking top-notch aerial creativity.

However, the question of whether it’s worth the investment largely depends on the specific needs and budget of the user. With various drones available in the market, each offering unique features at different price points, the ultimate choice boils down to the balance between the drone’s capabilities and its cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long does the battery last on the Sony Airpeak S1?

A: The Sony Airpeak S1 has a maximum flight time of 22 minutes without a payload, and can still maintain flight for up to 12 minutes when fitted with a heavy payload. The hot-swappable battery allows for power supply exchange without powering down the aircraft.
If you want to see the drones with the best battery, here are our top recommendations.

Q: Where is Sony Airpeak made?

A: Sony Airpeak is made in Japan, incorporating Sony's advanced technologies and attention to detail.

Q: How fast is the Airpeak?

A: The Airpeak can achieve speeds up to 55.9 mph, allowing for fast-motion filming and the ability to handle adverse weather conditions. This powerful flight performance provides creative freedom for dynamic professional aerial imagery.

Q: Who is the Sony Airpeak S1 Professional Drone designed for?

A: The Sony Airpeak S1 Professional Drone is designed for professional creators, filmmakers, government agencies, and enterprises seeking advanced non-Chinese manufactured drone technology for aerial expression.

Q: What are some of the Sony Airpeak S1's key features?

A: The Sony Airpeak S1's key features include a comprehensive Vision Sensing System, obstacle avoidance, Dual Operation Mode, high-performance aircraft system, and compatibility with Alpha mirrorless cameras. It also offers a seamless and intuitive user experience.

Meet the tester

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Benjamin Wilson
Benjamin, with a background in naval architecture, is passionate about RC boats. From sailboats to speedboats, he's sailed them all. Based in Florida, he's our anchor when it comes to all things aquatic in the RC world.
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